“Hi! Sorry if I kept you waiting,” I said to the beautiful redhead who stood when I approached her bench in the park. Meeting someone so close to home seemed a bit dangerous to me, despite ample evidence that Alma was well aware of my dates. Shannon Assan might have seen my name on the estate’s entrance, considering that she suggested the park across the street, but I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt. I guiltily wished that her hair was closer in color to Brenna’s, but that was mostly because the actual color nearly matched Brandon’s. Thinking of him on a date was almost worse than thinking of Alma. “Is something wrong?” asked Shannon as she brushed some hair back from her face. Why did all my thoughts lead back to Alma? “No. Sorry. Care to take a walk before heading out, or should I show you to my car?” I asked. Shannon giggled and said, “Umm… a walk or a walk… I’ll take the second!” I supposed my wording could have been a bit better, but I replied “Excellent choice! I was quite concerned that you might choose the walk, which would have forced me to make a swift exit. I simply can’t abide by people who choose that one.”
She laughed and replied “Me neither. Those type of walkers always trip me up.” In her profile, Shannon did mention she was a bit of a klutz, so she probably was being halfway serious on the last part. I was more than a little surprised she immediately proved the case by tripping over the slightly uneven sidewalk and grabbing my arm for support. “Sorry! Sorry!” she said as she regained her balance. A twig and even the air caught her before we reached Mila, both earning more apologies. I helped her into the car, scared of what she might injure if I did not. Mila was in her analog mode, so there wasn’t anything too flashy distracting us as I drove. I was still amused by how accustomed I was already to letting Mila drive for me. If I wasn’t more careful, I easily could become quite the lazy man. Father would disown me for certain. “Huh? What did I miss?” asked Shannon, causing me to apologize and admit that something funny just occurred to me. “Oh. Well, you have quite the unique car here, James. I’ve never known anyone who drove something so… classic.” she told me, glancing at the various gauges as she spoke.
I smiled and told her “A friend’s father owns his own shop, and they got this for me as a present. I helped out at the shop in my free time fairly regularly, so they went overboard in repaying me.” She nodded and asked, “How’s the sound system?” I switched on the radio while saying, “I’m sure we can find something you like on here. You like classics, right?” I was so accustomed to Mila bringing up whatever I wanted that I felt extremely out of touch with the radio, especially the analog version. Thankfully, she made sure the right music was playing when I stopped turning the knob. Shannon was obviously enjoying it, only singing a little off-key and not bothering to ask why there was never any interruption to the music. She did mention how lucky she felt with so many of her favorites playing, but I didn’t bother telling her that Mila probably created the playlist after scanning every social media site Shannon used. Without any awkward realizations, we arrived safely Morris Pier, which was Shannon’s choice for our miniature golf match.
From Shannon’s first swing, I could tell that her coordination was exceptionally poor, but I didn’t refuse her when she asked for help. I started off attempting to demonstrate what made a good swing, demonstrating the posture, the arc of the swing, and the proper time to strike the ball. Father taught me golf, though my interest never matched his enthusiasm. With demonstration failing, I attempted to help guide the putter in her hands, stepping behind her and placing my hands over hers. Having long arms truly was useful at times outside of fighting. When I started stepping back, I found myself barely dodging the putter as Shannon took an overly wide swing. “Whoa there. This isn’t a driving range.” I told her. “Well, yeah. We don’t have golf carts.” she replied. “Umm… Driving ranges are for practicing your long range in golf.” I explained. With obvious shock, she said, “Seriously!? My cousin lied to me! He told me that they were for cruising around in the carts and picking up balls.” Maybe her cousin worked at a golf club instead of participating, but I was still surprised that she believed such a thing. “Well, ignore what he said and try your swing again without nearly clubbing me.” I told her, stopping the putter with my foot when she went to swing too far again.
“Let’s try this,” I said, facing off with her, so I was swinging backwards. “Just follow my swing. Gently and easily. No need to strike anyone behind you.” I told her, only to step back a moment later when she turned to look, slipped on her ball, and nearly hit me again. “Are you sure you want to do golf?” I asked. Blushing, she said, “We don’t have to… Sorry.” I rolled my eyes and told her “Don’t worry. Just be careful.” Many people passed us as we slowly progressed through the course. I barely managed to catch her when she managed to trip on the little bridge, almost falling into the water below. When we reached the tougher spots, I ended up doing them for her after she took a few tries. Surprisingly, she seemed to be having fun, despite the bruises she earned when I wasn’t near enough to stop her from falling. I had to wonder at how the girl managed to survive this long. After we finally finished the course, we walked into the pier’s seafood joint and ate some pretty decent fish while talking over our favorite movies. Shannon loved children’s movies with her favorite being “A Little Princess”, which I remembered vaguely. I never realized the movie was based off a book until Shannon told me, but I was more surprised that she never read it, despite loving the movie.
I was quite well aware that most people didn’t read nearly as much as my father, but I would be very interested in the book if I found a favorite movie based off one. Father proved quite well that the books generally had far more engrossing stories than even the movies that portrayed them well. I easily imagined him hearing Shannon say that and going on about how she must read the book. Despite the books age, I wouldn’t be surprised if he read it at some point. I guiltily wondered at how many books Alma had read so far. Ai and Mai collectively had a very large library, mostly containing books pertaining to their family. I never even set foot in Alma’s wing before banishing her from my part of the house. The west wing was the largest of them and was bound to be as exquisitely furnished as the rest. Did Alma have a pool? I had difficulty picturing her swimming. Even when I saw her in the club, she was quite well covered. I was always surprised at how easily many girls stayed cool even when I was sweating. What if Alma was planning to swim when she found Emma and I there?
“James? You’re blushing.” stated Shannon. “I’m so sorry. I spaced off for a moment.” I told her. We talked a little more until our bill arrived, and I covered it despite her protests. Shannon worked as a cashier, a nice, stationary job that kept her from falling over, but I was certain to have less money troubles and was considering ending the date early. There was a theater at the pier, but paying to see one when I was already paying to have them play in my private theater seemed ridiculous. There were some rides, but riding a Ferris wheel would probably just have me thinking too much of Raine. I never met anyone quite so timid before. Even worse, I started thinking of how Alma would like staring out at the lake from a Ferris wheel, the dying light bringing out the red in her hair. I suggested that we head out, and Shannon didn’t protest, though I worried that I hurt her feelings. She was singing along with the music again when we were in the car, so my worry subsided some. We said our goodbyes in the park, and I walked home, texting Mila to send her that way as well. I wondered throughout the walk whether or not Alma was watching today, and I worried over how my heart behaved when I thought about her giving up on me. There must be some girl who could compete with her.